Due to social pressure, great strides have been made within the past 50 years to include women and non-whites in the picture of the past. However, American students still have an extremely warped view of world history and how it relates to current events because of the way Jews and Israel are discussed at school, and the way Arabs and Islam are excluded from mention, even when the topic is ancient Canaan.
I am deeply concerned about my daughter's 6th grade social studies
textbook, which I believe violates the law by teaching Bible history
(Zionist mythology) instead of sticking to the facts when discussing
ancient Canaan and Jewish history. I truly feel like David facing
Goliath when bringing up these issues with the school administration.
The textbook I am concerned about is “History Alive! The Ancient
World” by the Teachers' Curriculum Institute. There are six units: Early
Humans and the Rise of Civilization, which discusses Mesopotamia;
Ancient Egypt and the Middle East, which includes two chapters on
Judaism; Ancient India, which introduces Hinduism and Buddhism; Ancient
China, which discusses Confusionism, Daoism and Legalism; Ancient
Greece, which discusses Democracy and Greek contribution to the modern
world; and Rome, which discusses Christianity and Rome’s legacy in the
The chapters present artifacts, archaeological evidence, cultural
traditions and photos of these regions in modern day. They piece
together a scientific understanding of history based on what we know -
all except those relating to Canaan! There is no excuse for this
omission of facts and evidence from the Middle East Section, because
Canaan is full of artifacts, ancient ruins, and traditional culture.
“The narrative doesn't recognize the importance of the actual
geo-political history of the region as part of the indigenous timeline
from Syrian Phoenician Nabatean Arabian 'Judaism' to 'Christianity' and
then to 'Islam' all as part of one continuous history,” notes Oxford
scholar Lilia Patterson.
Instead of a rich discussion on history, the chapters on Canaan
contain only Bible stories told from a radically Judeo-centric
perspective. For example, Abraham is mentioned as the father of Judaism
but the textbook neglects to mention he had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael.
That is why Muslims refer to Jews as their “cousins.” It would have
been so easy to add a statement saying that Arabian historical legends
also date back to Abraham, but this topic is carefully avoided to the
point of absurdity.
Many different people lived in ancient Canaan besides Israelites.
Over time, these many tribes intermarried with each other. Canaanite
scholar Mazin Qumsiyeh explains, “The Palestinians of today, Muslims and
Christians, trace their descent to all the peoples who have lived on
this land from the time of the Canaanites.”
The exclusion of Arabic history from the section on the Middle East
creates a textbook that is not only biased but wildly inaccurate. The
history of Canaan needs to be told in a secular, scientific way based on
archaeological, cultural and linguistic evidence, just like all other
histories are taught. Bible stories are not supposed to be taught as
historical fact. Many paragraphs start with "The Hebrew Bible says..."
(then proceed to misrepresent what the Bible says), while several
actually present legend as fact.
The Jewish connection to the Middle East is presented as a continuum
dating back to the ancient times, ending with their expulsion by the
Romans in the first century after Christ, even though historical
evidence finds no proof of any major migrations. Instead, what has been
found is that most of the descendants of the ancient Israelites accepted
Christianity and eventually embraced Islam.
“Archeologists at Tel Aviv University showed that city states and
kingdoms were routinely made and obliterated in the ancient land of
Canaan while the natives survived and continued to live.” The various
Canaanite groups “lived, fought, interacted and collaborated, but no
group was obliterated in history,” writes Qumsiyeh.
Established by the Jebusites (not by King David) in 3000 BC,
Jerusalem has always been an international city with a multi-ethnic and
multi-religious community. After King Solomon’s death, the majority of
the Israelites no longer considered Jerusalem their capital. Yet, the
textbook refers only to Jerusalem as the Jewish capital of Israel.
The textbook’s discussion of the Temple of Solomon and its
importance to Jews is also completely inadequate because again, it
relies exclusively on Biblical mythology and omits extremely important
facts about the Arab history of the region.
After the Romans expelled the Jews in the 1st century CE, they also
destroyed the Temple of Solomon. All that was left was a small remnant
of a wall. It could barely be seen as the area was used as a garbage
The first goal of the first Muslim generation after the death of the
Prophet Mohammed in the 7th century CE was to liberate Jerusalem and
rebuild the Temple. Islamic Caliph Umar lifted the ban on Jews living in
Jerusalem for the first time since 70 CE. The new Muslim government and
the Jewish community worked together to clean up the garbage and build a
new house of worship on the Temple Mount, incorporating the Wailing
Wall, which Jews hold sacred. Karen Armstrong writes:
"As soon as the platform had been cleared, Umar summoned Ka'b ibn Ahbar, a Jewish convert to Islam and an expert on the isra'iliyat
or as we would say, "Jewish studies." It came naturally to the Muslims
to consult the Jews about the disposition of the site that had been
sacred to their ancestors. Both the Jewish and Muslim sources make it
clear that Jews took part in the reclamation of the Mount."
When European Crusaders took over Jerusalem, both Muslims and Jews
were persecuted and banished from the city. When Saladin reconquered the
city in the late 12th century, Jews and Muslims were invited back into
the holy city. Jerusalem became known as the “City of Peace” where
Muslims, Christians and Jews could worship freely.
These are important details to omit. Instead of facts, the textbook
dishonestly presents the history of modern-day Israel as the “return” of
exiled Jews to their “homeland.” It is simply wrong to teach two
chapters on Judaism, one chapter on every other religion, but not one
sentence mentioning the Abrahamic origins of Islam. When I complained, I
was told that this is because Islam is not an ancient religion.
However, all of the other chapters attempt to create a picture of
the modern day that relates to the past. Even the chapter on Mesopotamia
includes a photo of modern day Iraq. The textbook includes photos of a
synagogue in Czechoslovakia, and many other scenes of European Jewish
life which, while interesting, have no historical connection to ancient
Canaan whatsoever. Since this Ancient World textbook devotes an entire
chapter to Jews in
modern times, it makes no sense not to mention once that in modern day
Mesopotamia, Syria, Canaan, and Egypt, most people are Muslim or
Christian and they speak Arabic.
Our exposure to information at a
young age sets the tone for all future understanding. This textbook
reflects an outdated, Bible mythology-based world view that is racist,
historically inaccurate and absolutely inappropriate for use in a public